What a way to return to the top of the table. Arsenal beat Norwich 4 -1 in front of 60,000 fans at the Emirates; a stadium built for such breathtaking football.
After the draw with West Brom before the International Break and questions about whether Arsenal can maintain their impressive start of the season, the Gunners silenced their doubters.
The return of the imperious Santi Carzola, whose absence has been cushioned by the presence of the very magnificent Mesut Ozil, the indomitable form of Aaron Ramsey and the quiet but efficient Flamini. He proved the cynics to question the purchase of Ozil when we already had him. They proved that you can’t have too many World Class players in a team. Some of the football played at the Emirates and the goals scored were truly “Playstation” stuff. The team really clicked and for the first time in a long time, we had a very strong bench, even Ramsey had to start on the bench.
Nicky B came on to very good effect looking sharp. The question now is that after all we have seen this season from Arsenal, are we the fans entitled to dream? (I don’t care about the pundits and what other fans think). Can this Arsenal team finally win the League? I say the League because like Arsene, I believe it is the true test of a football club. You need quality, grit, mental strength, spirit, hunger and above all consistency. Has this team shown in the last 10 months that they possess those qualities? Do we have the squad capable of sustaining a title push? I believe we do and here are the reasons.
CONSISTENCY: This Arsenal team has only lost twice in the League this calendar year, to Spurs away and Villa in the 1st game of the season. On the back of a remarkable Champions League away victory at Munich, the team ground out result after result to overtake Spurs and qualify for the Champions League. We went on an incredible run of away victories that only ended at West Brom this month.
SQUAD: Our Goalkeeper has improved, cut out the mistakes and he is solid if not spectacular in between the sticks. Our back four is now settled, the BFG and Koscielny have formed such an understanding that the only way the Captain can come back is via injury or suspension to one of them. The full back positions manned by Messrs. Sagna and Gibbs have been very solid in their defensive duties. Their offensive contributions have been crucial to the form of the team. They are ably deputized by Nacho Monreal, a Spanish International and Carl Jenkinson, England International and Gooner at heart.
The defensive shield and leadership provided in the midfield by our Vice Captain Mikel Arteta has been complimented by the no nonsense work done by Mathieu Flamini. With each passing game, his re-signing is proving to be a masterstroke by the Boss. The midfield is the area the Manager is spoilt for choice. We have Jack ‘smoking’ Wilshere, Santi Carzola, The Ox, Serge Gnarbry, Aaron Ramsey, Roscisky and of course the record signing Mesut Ozil. I have left out Diaby because even though we still pay his wages, he has not played for us this year and is not likely to play for us this season.
In attack Giroud has grown from game to game and is now one of the deadliest in Europe. Theo Walcott has been very good and we have on our hands a player that is about to enter the best years of his career. Lukas Podolski gives us goals and assists, a player that can always be counted upon. There is a very good footballer in Nicklas Bendtner, if Arsene Wenger can unearth him again, I am sure he will make useful contributions to our nascent challenge. This is not a squad of kids like in 1998. There are leaders all over the pitch who know exactly what is required. The squad has already been tested with injuries to no less than 6 first team players at the start of the season. They have proven that when called upon we have the resources to survive. They have Mental Strength and the hunger to win.
STABILITY: We are the only top four team not to change a Manager. Arsene Wenger looks set to sign a new contract and Steve Bould is finally getting his message across. The backroom staff do know how to win a league title, though its been 9 years since the last time, the requirements are basically the same. This is massively important in a season where Moyes and Pelligrini are getting used to their new jobs. Jose’s second coming may yet catch fire but as of yet, the Chelsea team is not yet as he likes to say in his image. Arsene knows his players and they know what he expects from them today. Moreover, they know they have his 100% support. For the first summer in a long time, we have not sold any of our best players. There is a very apparent strong bond in the team with players willing to fight for one another. Everyone seems focused and ready to knuckle down and work for the team.
WOW FACTOR: This season will go down as the one Arsenal got their groove back or like we say in Naija palance, their swag. The team is packed full of flair players and match winners the likes of whom we have not since for 9 years. In Ozil and Carzola we have two genuine World Class footballers who can win a game all by themselves. In Theo Walcott and Podolski we have players who carry genuine threat and can hold their own against any defense in the league. Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey are two players in the form of their lives who have found their niche in the team and can do no wrong at the moment. Flamini holds it all together allowing the flair players ahead of him to do their stuff, his contributions cannot be overemphasized. In 2007/08 his absence through injury was one of the reasons Arsenal’s title challenge faltered. Any team playing us now have simply too many players to keep quiet.
GOONERS DELIGHT: The Arsenal fans are fully onside. The atmosphere in the stadium is now very positive now and everyone is buzzing. That helps in no small measure as the toxic mutinous atmosphere at the Emirates in recent seasons have negated the home advantage making it a happy hunting ground for teams. Home form is just as crucial as a solid away form in any title winning season. Our players will feed off the positive vibes at home to make it a very difficult place to visit for opposing teams.
In conclusion, I will like to say that as an Arsenal fan, my default position is that we can beat any club if we play to the best of our collective abilities simply because we are “The Arsenal”. I also have been around long enough in football to see the beginnings of something special. I will definitely not be surprised based on the evidence of what I have seen and what is coming back in Theo Walcott, The Ox and Lukas Podolski to see Arsenal win the League in May 2014. After years of grinding out 4th place finishes, I think the Manager has gone out to add to his squad a real marquee signing that can be the missing catalyst to make the step up and challenge for the league title. If Arsene can hypnotize all of us into believing that 4th is a trophy, surely it will not be difficult for him to tell his players that “1st is 1st” and the REAL trophy.
There are many winners in this Arsenal team who have won stuff at their former clubs and their countries. They can bring all that experience to telling effect. I can actually visualize Arteta and The Verminator lifting the Premier League Trophy in May, 2014.
Let’s take it one game at a time and enjoy the good times. There will be very difficult times up ahead but if we stick to our ways, if Wenger spends again in January and the stars align for us, we will achieve ‘Victory through Harmony’.
So puff your chest out, enjoy the banter and milk it for all its worth…this has been long time coming. IT IS OUR TIME NOW. We are entitled to dream!!!